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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dean & Deluca Coconut Macaroons

w/ orange peel and cranberries + C0conut nests:

A few weeks ago I went to Georgetown - where I enjoyed the notoriously delicious "Goat cheese and Asiago" crepe - and happened upon the most beautiful macaroon display at Dean & Deluca's. I was enthralled by the tower made of tiers upon tiers of pastel colored french macaroons: lavender, vanilla, passion fruit, chocolate and mango (pictured). Alas, I ardently lamented my lack of photographic equipment. I wouldn't have been able to bring myself to actually take photos inside a D&Ds, of course. I would have been too worried the trays of ethereal confections would simply disappear in a cloud of vanilla scented smoke the moment I did. Around the corner there was a more homely display of apothecary jars, chocked full of coconut macaroons dipped in chocolate. These were hardly as elegant, but equally as inspirational.

I bought a box and took them home to share. The coconut macaroon was dense, not overly moist and with beautiful crispy edges. One or two of them appeared a bit darker than I would have liked, but the insides were sweet and sticky enough I didn't much care in the end. I was not a fan of the white chocolate the macaroon was dipped in, but the tart and sweet flavor of the cranberries was perfect with the smooth, fatty coconut. The only thing that could have made them tastier would have been a little orange zest. I can't even begin to talk about the mango flavored French macaroons with their sensual vanilla butter cream - not here, not like this. They were almost too delightful to put into words.

So, time passed and I mused and mused about macaroons. I went home last weekend for Easter, and in addition to dying Easter eggs, getting a pedicure and consuming copious amounts of candy I managed to dig up my "ye ole standby" coconut macaroon recipe. I was pretty sure I could re-create the Dean & Deluca's coconut macaroons with only a little trouble, but I wanted to make them my own. So, I nixed the white chocolate (a blessing) and added a teaspoon or so of fresh orange zest. I also upped the amount of coconut and flour from the original recipe and added a little more almond extract as well, just to keep things lively. The results were, in a word, scrumptious. Sure, they lacked some of the elegance of the French macaroon, and they weren't filled with butter cream, but they were ready to eat in half an hour, and just as sweet and even more satisfying.

As the first pan was baking, I noticed something extraordinary through the open kitchen door. In the dew speckled grass there were perhaps a dozen Easter eggs scattered around the yard. Was it an Easter miracle?! Had the Easter bunny come to visit... ME! Upon closer inspection I realized it was just a show of good will on our neighbor's part; after all, their Easter egg hunt started at a robust 7:30 that morning right under my bedroom window. Despite a little broken sleep, I was thrilled and promptly crept out in my pajamas and scooped them up. I was so tickled in fact that I used the remaining macaroon batter to re-create a nostalgic childhood favorite: the jelly bean coconut nest. There was always one tucked in our baskets as children. My macaroon was, per the original, very nearly, sickeningly indulgent even without the chocolate. But, it was dreadfully simple and the unconventional flavors of the jelly beans (I used Jelly Belly) added an extra element of surprise. I only wish I had found the time to whip them up earlier this week so I could have given them to neighbors and friends.

Notes: The first time I laid eyes on a French macaroon I was enraptured. I have never made any out of shear, unadulterated fear. But, I feel comfortable enough with whipping out some coconut macaroons until I get my nerve up. According to wikipedia a macaroon (or macaron) is composed of egg whites, almond powder and sugar. However, industry names like David Lebovitz describe the macaroon as more of "the result of a technique, rather than following a mere recipe". Lebovitz provides a list of great links to learn more about that mysterious, beautiful confection on his website. For the humble, timid follower of the coconut macaroon I list my recipe for "D&D Macaroons" here. Enjoy!

D&D Macaroons
Variation from a "Pillsbury: Best Desserts" recipe

2 egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 (7 ounce) bag coconut
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 325. Lightly grease and flour a cookie sheet.
2. Whisk/Beat the egg whites until they are frothy and white. Add the sugar, flour, salt, almond extract, orange zest.
3. Add the coconut and cranberries and mix until thoroughly coated.
4. Drop the coconut mixture by tablespoonfuls onto the cookie sheet. Bake for 13-17 minutes until lightly golden. Immediately remove from cookie sheet.

Coconut Nests:

1. Add two drops of green food coloring to the prepared macaroons, stirring until the dye is evenly distributed and the coconut is the desired shade of green.
2. Drop the macaroons by tablespoonfuls onto the cookie sheet and bake as directed.
3. As soon as the macaroons come out of the oven, press 2-3 miniature jelly beans into the hot coconut, pressing gently to create a "nest".
4. Remove the nests from the cookie sheet and allow to cool completely.

Disclaimer: Better photos to follow shortly, I got my hands on a family member's Nikon this weekend so I'm at her mercy for the actual photos.

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